Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What Really Kills Us?

Let's start by saying: I am not a gun nut. I'm not really a big fan. I kind of feel the same way about guns as I do about computers -- a necessary evil. So I learn what I need to know about both to be able use them when the need arises. When it comes to guns, I like to hunt; I prefer to bow hunt. I like to protect my family; I'd prefer diplomacy. I enjoy being a free American; I'd hate to be defenseless if someone decided we needed to be rounded up.

I bring this up because there are a lot of well-meaning people who don't like guns. I understand, I'm not a big fan myself. When these well-intentioned folk stand up and say we need to get rid of the guns, though, I have to ask why?

Beyond all the rhetoric there are some fascinating statistics. I know, I know... statistics are a cold place to go when talking about things like death, but bear with me a few moments because I promise, it warrants consideration.

The first thing I would point out is motor vehicles versus firearms. Wikipedia has some charts on both that show that motor vehicles kill about 2-3 times as many people as guns. If you look at Wikipedia's page on gun violence in the U.S. it gets more complicated. Regardless, no matter how you crunch the numbers, more people die on the road than by a gun. I don't hear a lot of people calling for tighter automobile control. It's a lot easier to get a driver's license than a gun or a carry permit.

Okay, I'm just trying to point out that we don't think twice about putting any 16-year-old kid on the road with a couple of tons of metal capable of moving at 100 miles per hour, but there is a great debate about guns which appear to be less of an issue when it comes to death and injury.

Just sayin'...

The real issue comes from the CDC, which says the top ten causes of death are:

* Heart disease: 616,067
* Cancer: 562,875
* Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
* Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
* Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
* Alzheimer's disease: 74,632
* Diabetes: 71,382
* Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
* Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
* Septicemia: 34,828

Each individual entry here kills more people than guns. Heart disease and cancer kill somewhere around one hundred times the total gun-related deaths in the U.S. How about we keep the guns for now and start asking some judges what the U.S. Constitution says about fast food, factory farms, and the USDA and FDA's right to poison it's population?

Granted, it gets even more complex as you look at it. If you read the entire report by the CDC, it becomes very clear that these are not simple statistics. In the end, though, guns kill very few people compared to health issues that we have the ability to change.

So here's my question: is it really the guns we need to focus on at this moment in history? I understand that it's a hot topic and that each and every life is worth saving. Still, if we buy the rhetoric and focus on guns over any number of issues that are actually killing more Americans every day, aren't we saying that the 100+ people that die from health issues are less important than each gun-related death?

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